Cover photo for Denzell Stewart Smith's Obituary
Denzell Stewart Smith Profile Photo

Denzell Stewart Smith

March 30, 1929 — April 25, 2023

Denzell Stewart Smith

Denzell Stewart Smith, age 94, Professor Emeritus of ISU, died peacefully at home with family on Tuesday, April 25th 2023.Denzell Stewart Stoltz was born on March 30, 1929 in New Richmond, Wisconsin, to Kirby Denzell Stoltz and Violet Christine Moline. Violet and Kirby divorced, after which Violet married John F. Smith, changing Denzell’s name to Denzell Stewart Smith. A truly Renaissance man, Denzell was really,really good at so many things! As his good friend and former student Hank Curtis said, “He went all the way and excelled at whatever he chose to focus on.” From learning Koine Greek, playing the flute, skiing, canoeing, dog training, writing, teaching, shooting and fly tying, Den went all out, or more precisely, all in. A life-long fisherman and outdoorsman, Den the scholar found time and energy for it all. After three trips to Lt. Col. Cooper’s Gunsite Academy, he qualified as an expert NRA handgun instructor and taught many classes in self defense. For decades Den was a Modern Language Association (MLA) bibliographer. Until a month ago, Den tied flies, moving to larger hooks as his eyesight deteriorated.

While in graduate school at University of Minnesota, Denzell was called up for active duty in the USMC during the Korean conflict. After honorable discharge in November 1952,Sergeant Denzell Smith married Janice Romelle Peterson and resumed his graduate studies in Scandinavian Language and Literature at University of Minnesota, completing a MA degreein 1954.

Of his many awards, degrees, and honors, the three Distinguished Teacher Awards were favorites. Denzell was a Danforth Foundation Associate. After several Critical Thinking seminars in Santa Rosa, California he taught with new zest. Many, many, former students came to us saying “He was the very best, most inspiring teacher in my life!” When asked ‘How so?’ Bernice Steinhart said that he mastered the subject matter, he didn’t lecture but rather engaged with the students, and mostly, was so enthusiastic about the literature, whether Shakespeare or The Iliad, it opened whole new areas of herthinking and awareness. Although a Fulbright grant to Norway in 1954-1955 provided greater fluency in Norwegian language, Denzell shifted his area of study to English studies with an emphasis on Shakespeare through Master’s and Doctoral Degrees in 1958 and 1965, respectively.

Den was a devoted family man, married to Jan for 70 years and father to Daniel Steven Smith and Ann Marie Smith (Phillips). He loved his grandchildren dearly and loved spending time with them, teaching them to tie flies and sharing family lore. When Dan and Ann Marie were little and growing up, he juggled his career as a professor with his appointment as anMLA bibliographer with weekend fun with kids. While he taught at University of Maryland, we went camping, boating, hiking and fishing (in good weather) and to the Smithsonian and National Zoo during the winter. After moving to Pocatello in January 1972, we skied at Grand Targhee, camped and fished in the summers, and hunted in the fall. Cats and dogs were the loves of his life. The Dobermans were obedience trained and entered in many dog shows. Den worked with Jane Guidinger of One Dog Makes a Difference (ODMAD) and in Salt Lake City with Edie Olson and Mary Ann Nortmann, all great dog trainers.

Denzell was a man of keen intellect, moral and complex. He was many things to many people. He was religious: raised Lutheran, he switched to the Roman Catholic church in the 1970s, and the last few decades found God in the natural world, in the mountains, on the rivers, and in the love of our dogs and kitties, and time spent with grandchildren.

He is survived by his beloved wife Janice Smith, son Daniel Smith, daughter Ann Marie (Brent) Phillips, grandchildren Sammy (Alex) Pacioretty, Brandy Smith, Colter (Abby) Smith, Brenda Phillips, and Rachel Phillips, great grandson Jay W. Smith, brother Charles (Carolyn) Stoltz, sisters Elizabeth Stoltz and Jude Dodge, and cousin Claire (Vern)Bollesen.

A special thanks to Kim Hay of Heritage Home Health and Flicker Physical Therapy for bringing so much sunshine and joy into Denzell’s life this past year. We are grateful to Dr. Darryl Moffett of the Teton Retinal Institute for saving Denzell’s eyesight and of course to PMC for all the excellent care he received these many years.

A brief military service for Denzell will be held at the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery, Blackfoot Idaho on Friday June 23rd, 2023 at 10:00 AM followed by a celebration of life on Friday June 23rd, 2023 at 4:00 PM at the Nordic Center on Scout Mountain in Pocatello, Idaho.

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Past Services

Graveside Service

Friday, June 23, 2023

Starts at 10:00 am (Mountain time)

Idaho Veterans Cemetery Blackfoot

2651 Cromwell Lane, Blackfoot, ID 83221

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Celebration of Life

Friday, June 23, 2023

Starts at 4:00 pm (Mountain time)

Nordic Center Scout Mountain

East Fork Mink Creek Road, ID 83204

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